Safety: Electric Current in the Human Body

Effects of Electric Current

in the

Human Body

The following information is from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) publication 3075, Controlling Electrical Hazards, available at or

What effect do shocks have on the body?

An electric shock can result in anything from a slight tingling sensation to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity depends on the following:

This table shows the general relationship between the amount of current received and the reaction when current flows from the hand to the foot for just 1 second.

Effects of Electric Current in the Human Body

Current Reaction


Below 1 milliampere Generally not perceptible

1 milliampere Faint tingle

5 milliamperes Slight shock felt; not painful but disturbing. Average individual can let go. Strong involuntary reactions can lead to other injuries.

6–25 milliamperes (women) Painful shock, loss of muscular control*

9–30 milliamperes (men) The freezing current or " let-go" range.*

50–150 milliamperes Extreme pain, respiratory arrest, severe muscular contractions. Death is possible.

1,000–4,300 milliamperes Rhythmic pumping action of the heart ceases. Muscular contraction and nerve damage occur; death likely.

10,000 milliamperes Cardiac arrest, severe burns; death probable

* If the extensor muscles are excited by the shock, the person may be thrown away from the power source.

Source: W.B. Kouwenhoven, " Human Safety and Electric Shock," Electrical Safety Practices, Monograph, 112, Instrument Society of America, p. 93. November 1968.